We review a lot of travel shoes on this blog and more than a few of them break the $100 barrier. As a working stiff who’s got to watch the budget, I realize it can be a wrenching decision to plop down that kind of cash for one pair of shoes, even if the pair will last you a few years. When you’re buying for an offspring with growing feet, however, you really have to think twice.
So I was happy to discover Northside, a company using its China manufacturing to actually give us lower prices instead of just fatter margins. Most of their shoes are in the $40 to $60 range, some of them coming in for less than that at retail.
My tween daughter went tromping around Tennessee on her spring break vacation with the Northside Kiona hiking shoes for women in March, including a couple miles in the woods over roots and stones. She’ll be taking these with her on another trip coming up too and despite the reasonable $50 price, they look like they’ll be around until she outgrows them.
She likes the look of these Kiona shoes, which is key, but they offer great support and a breathable upper. They’re lightweight but have a good tread system, so they grip well on rock surfaces. They also come in all-recyclable packing—a nice touch. You can find them at retail stores like Bob Wards, or online at Amazon.
Northside’s sandals are an especially good deal. The Northside Burke ones pictured above get high marks from users and will only set you back $40 at most. Everything is synthetic of course, but that’s a good thing if you’ll be using them to walk through streams or go paddleboarding. They have a good enough tread to carry a kayak through the woods afterwards and work well for general summer travel. Look for them in stores or at Amazon.
Northwise makes a whole range of hiking shoes, winter boots, rain boots, and more, all at prices that won’t make you sweat. See more at NorthwiseUSA.com.
This alarm clock may seem gimmicky at first, but the gentle wake up can make a big difference in how you feel for the morning. Circadian rhythms lull you into and out of deep slumber, and when you wake up in the middle of that deepest slumber it leaves you feeling more tired. This can easily be the feeling you have if you are also suddenly awakened by an annoying alarm or blaring music.
This Super Shaker is designed for home or travel use and involves placing the vibrating pad underneath your pillow. Most peoples’ pillows are thick enough to hardly notice it is there. At the preset time on the familiar alarm clock (which is connected by a white cord to the vibrating pad), subtle vibrations begin to wake you from underneath your pillow. One of the primary benefits of this clock, however, is that it can awaken one person without disturbing another as music or a normal alarm might.
There is a standard alarm if that feature is needed, and volume control allows you to adjust it to your preferred decibel. An ever-popular snooze function is perfect for those who like to procrastinate on the pillow. Light sleepers will also appreciate a dimmer switch on the face of the clock to keep the glow at a minimum.
Non-U.S. travelers will probably opt for the international 24-hour clock mode making this a great gift for the global nomad. It can operate on a battery or with electrical outlets and sells with foreign power supply accessories. For many, the apparatus may be a bit clunky to carry around, but it is lightweight and easily squeezes into any corner of your suitcase. I have visited many hotels in Europe and Asia where the clock (if there were one at all) was a small digital screen under the TV screen, which I could hardly see from my pillow.
It used to be that I’d only see die-hard cyclists and backpackers using hydration packs. Then I started seeing them more often on casual hikers and skiers. In the past year however, they’re suddenly everywhere. If you’re wondering which one is right for you, or just what all the hype is about, you’re not alone. I was wondering the same thing, so I tried out four packs from three brands for a little compare and contrast. All the hydration packs below include the pack itself, plus a water reservoir and tube with drinking nozzle. They vary in terms of size and storage, and all sell their water reservoir systems separately if you want to adapt it to a pack you already own.
Platypus Tokul XC:
The Platypus Tokul comes in three sizes for both men and women: 3L, 5L, and 8L. The smaller two sizes include a 2L reservoir, and the 8L includes a 3L reservoir. The pack itself has the most storage capacity of any of the systems we tried. You get a roomy internal gear pocket, plus a mesh stuff pocket on the outside. We easily fit an extra layer of clothing in the pack, plus snacks and necessities like car keys. The pack is comfortable, includes a chest strap, and feels streamlined while on. The hydration system includes a bite-valve with tube, and for us is the most easily adaptable with our current gear: we already use the Platypus GravityWorks filtration system while backpacking, and we can easily switch out reservoirs and tubing. The reservoir is designed with a zip-top (much like a zip lock baggie) which is then secured with an additional slide lock clip, but to fill the bag requires using one hand to hold open the mouth. Not ideal, but not a deal-breaker, either. The tubing is secured to either shoulder strap of the pack with loops and a clip, which works reasonably well. We used the 8L Tokul on both day hikes and downhill ski days, and found it a solid fit, especially while hiking. The reservoir fits in it’s own compartment, and while it’s not terribly difficult to load it while full, it’s not a walk in the park, either. It does take some sliding and shifting. Once in the pack, however, it does not slosh around. I appreciate that the Tokul 8L is just big enough not to need an additional pack for storage.
If you need a much bigger hydration pack, we also tried out the Platypus Sprinter XT with 35L of space and hydration. The reservoir is identical to that of the Tokul, but the storage capabilities are extensive. The pack opens wide at the top, but includes compression straps on the side to tighten things down when you have less gear. Find it at Cascade Designs or Moosejaw for $159 in Raven or Lava. For $20 less there’s a 25L version.
The Osprey Verve for women comes in 5L, 9L, and 13L. There’s also the men’s equivalent to this pack, the Viper. I tested the 5L, but you can also check out a past review of a larger Verve. The Verve and Viper have less storage room than the Tokul, but more compartments to separate your stuff and a flatter, more streamlined look. I found the pack design to be superior: you get Osprey’s AirScape back panel to wick away moisture and provide some air flow, plus the hydration hose is secured with not only a sleeve down the shoulder strap, but a handy magnet that holds it in place. I found I appreciated this feature more than I anticipated. There’s a chest strap as well as a hip belt, and a front pocket and shoulder pocket as well. The reservoir has a vastly different design than that of the Platypus, and it really just comes down to preference. To fill the Osprey, you open a large valve and hold the reservoir flat under the water stream. There’s a sturdy handle by which to hold it and load it back into the pack (in its own compartment, of course). I found it easier to load than the Platypus, but less adaptable with the rest of my gear. If you already have an Osprey backpack however, it’s a breeze to transfer the Verve hydration system to a large pack.
The Camelbak Kicker is a great option for kids. Camelbak advertises it for kids five years and up, but I’d say 6-10. It has a 1.5L hydration system, which, when filled, is heavier than you’d think. The pack fit our eight-year-old perfectly; he zipped around several ski resorts with it on his back without a problem, and carried on it on quite a challenging hike. At five years old, it may have been too heavy, and the pack itself was too small for our 12-year-old. You get quite a nice storage compartment with this pack, big enough to carry an extra pair of gloves, a light jacket or outer layer, or a hat and snacks. The hose is insulated, and the bite valve is easy for kids to manipulate. The reservoir is designed similarly to the Osprey: you fill after unlocking a large valve in the center. It’s less easy to slide back into the reservoir sleeve than the Osprey, but not impossible for a child to do him or herself. There’s a chest strap and the shoulder straps are adjustable. All in all, this is a kids’ pack that boasts all the features of an adult pack, which is what we look for. For $50 at Camelbak or Zappos, or as low as $35 on Amazon, you can pick from blue or pink.
Here’s something I can say I’ve been using for years, items that perfectly fit the credo of “practical travel gear.” These dry tabs in a waterproof packet from Sea to Summit are lightweight, inexpensive, and useful. You can use them on a weekend getaway or a round-the-world trip and they’re great for getting around the liquids issue with your carry-on.
Of course they’re great for camping too, especially if you need to schlep all your stuff in a backpack over miles of trails before you set up camp.
Sea to Summit is known for putting out a great variety of gear that’s well-made, but well-priced. These pocket soaps retail for just $4.99 and are often on sale for a dollar less. Each has 50 of the tabs inside: little pieces of what feel like thin paper. When they come in contact with water, however, they turn into what they’re labeled: soap, shampoo, shaving cream, laundry detergent, or body wash. Like magic! See a demo of the soap in action below.
As shown in that video, the plastic packs themselves are watertight, so if your pack gets wet or you drop one (closed) in the sink, none of the tabs inside get wet. With 50 of them to work with, they’ll last quite a while, especially the shaving soap.
They’re biodegradable, so no worries in the backcountry, plus they’re phosphate and paraben free. How much would you pay for even trial sized liquids making that same claim?
All have a pleasant “light green tea” fragrance.
Where are you supposed to put all that cycling gear when you’re not using it in transit? This Mountainsmith Bike Cube Deluxe is the bag meant to hold it all.
If you’re like most cyclists, you often get your bike to where it needs to go by car first. You put it on a bike rack, ride to the starting point, then get all of your gear out of the car before taking off.
This bag is the one that keeps all that stuff together: helmet, gloves, tools, shoes, glasses, lights, and whatever else you usually need. The general idea is that you keep everything bike-related in this one catch-all and then you just grab and go when it’s time to ride. If you’re the type who loves Mountainsmith’s Modular Hauler system or K-9 Cube, this is another organization aid to keep your car camping or road tripping auto from getting trashed.
Speaking of trashed, this thing even includes a mat for you to lay out for changing from regular shoes to cycling shoes if you’re the type that brings separate shoes. Or just to change out of your muddy ones into something else after mountain biking, for the ride home. The mat then goes in a separate pouch on the outside of the bag.
It also comes with a nice tool organizer for tune-ups and plenty of pockets of different sizes in three sections, some of them mesh and some not, plus a Velcro organizer flap you can move around. I like how the middle section is vented so if damp things are in there some air can circulate.
There’s a handle on the top that secures with Velcro plus a shoulder strap in case you need to walk a ways with it. The only downside of all this storage space is…it’s not going with you on the bike. It’s meant to stay behind in a vehicle, house, or hotel.
The Mountainsmith Bike Cube Deluxe lists for $80, but right it’s going for under $50 at Amazon. That’s a fantastic value for something designed this well that holds so much. You can also check prices at Rock Creek and eBags.